Recently I chatted with Dean and Carla Jones the owner / proprietors of Encore, Chocolates and Teas. This unique shop located in downtown Olympia, WA sells not only loose leaf teas but also artisan chocolates.
Why the name Encore? After being semi-retired for four years Dean and Carla realized that sitting home just wasn’t for them, besides they are very much people persons and Dean loves to chat. Encore is a word best associated with a second act or a new beginning and this shop is just that for Dean and Carla.
Currently there are 220 teas available for purchase. They receive teas from 10-15 distributors receiving tea shipments from around the world. The teas are sold by the ounce and weighed while you wait. The teas range in price from $1.40 an ounce for the cheapest blend to $7.25 an ounce for the most expensive blends.
They sell steeping pots and filters and if asked Dean will show you the best way to make an excellent cup of tea.
Here are some tea facts;
- If you want a stronger cup of tea you add more tea to the steep process, you do not let tea steep longer to make it stronger that only makes the tea bitter.
- With the first steep of any tea you get the most antioxidants.
- Most teas can be steeped multiple times.
- Any tea can be made an iced tea.
- Many herbal teas are made with stevia leaves so they do not need sweetener.
- Put loose leaf teas in an air tight container and keep out of sunlight. Light affects the tea and makes it less flavorful.
- Tea should never be frozen.
Dean did give me a few pointers in the art of making an excellent cup of tea. My favorite is white tea.
- Boil the water and then let it sit for three to four minutes to get to the right temperature (best at 175 degrees for white tea).
- Take 2 tablespoons (or about 3-4 grams) of white tea leaves for every two cups of water. Place the leaves in a tea maker.
- Place the 175 degree water over the tea leaves and wait 2 minutes. Remove the water from the tea leaves.
- Add your sweetener of choice (for a vegan alternative add rice syrup).
To stop brewing tea you remove the leaves from the water. Each tea variety has a ‘best’ tea steep time. For example black teas should steep for four minutes, green teas for three minutes, and white teas for only two. Because the best cup of tea comes about from the boiling water being able to surround all of the tea leaves the small tea balls so many people use are not recommended. Infuser pots such as these shown here are best and allow the leaves to breath and be surrounded by the water.
Some of the tea varieties available in the store include; Black, Herbal, Oolong, Green and White teas. This isn’t all however. Under Green Teas for example they have Jasmine, Mint, Fruit and Spice. Under Herbal they have Chai, Fruit, Mate, Mint, Spice and Wellness. You can spend hours in this store browsing the tea varieties and the combinations available. It is hard to pick just one tea to take home at a time.
There is currently only one tea plantation in the United States which is owned by Bigelow Teas and located in South Carolina, it is called the Charleston Tea Plantation.
Several other states have tried to grow the leaves necessary for tea but their yield is small and sporadic mostly due to soil and weather conditions. This link shows a list of other American growers of Teas.
Teas being imported into the United States are checked for herbicides and pesticides. Drought, pollution and weather conditions all affect the quality of the tea leaves. Currently the best black teas come from India, the best Oolong from Taiwan and the best Green teas from China and Japan. Dean has personally tasted each of the teas he sells in his store.
Prior to opening the store Dean and Carla did a lot of market research and figured that their customer base would be those 45 years old and older. After opening the store on November 29th, 2013 they have found that their largest customer base is actually those in the 20 – 40 age bracket. These younger shoppers like the various tea blends available and they prefer the bulk buying of their teas over traditional teas sold in grocery stores.
Encore, Chocolates and Teas is filling a niche vacated in Olympia when The Tea Lady closed her shop on June 14th 2014. She had been an Olympia landmark for 20 years.
This is part one of my interview with Dean and Carla Jones from Encore, Chocolates and Teas. Part two, where I write about the Chocolate half of their store, will be posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 on my Lean, Mean and Vegan blog.